Breast cancer: a guide

Telling someone diagnosed with breast cancer not to worry is like telling a fish to not swim, but it's vital to try to keep the worry under control, or it could possibly lead to a debilitating bout of depression.When clinical psychologist Gwendoline Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, a friend who had also been through it told her, "Darling, welcome to the club you never wanted to be a member of."
It may not be a situation she ever thought she'd be in, but when it happened she decided to put it to good use. She is sharing her experience, and the in-depth knowledge she's gathered along the way, in Breast Support, a book she's written for other Kiwi women diagnosed with breast cancer.
The book offers information on a range of subjects, from having a biopsy to recovering from a mastectomy. Gwendoline also dons her psychologist's hat to write about dealing with worry and the importance of maintaining a cheerful outlook.
Long-term untreated worry can lead to depression, which is one of the last things you want when you're contending with breast cancer.
However, Gwendoline says it's not as simple as just telling someone to stop worrying.
Here is some of her practical advice from Breast Support.
  • After diagnosis, tell yourself, "Now, let's all just wait before we start to worry, shall we?" This will remind you nothing bad has happened and it's your worry-haunted mind creating the difficulty at this point. Technically known as anticipatory anxiety, this is the state in which you act as if you are able to predict the future and only see the worst possible outcome.
  • Yes breast cancer can be life-threatening, but it is also a very curable form of cancer. So focus as much as you can on the many practical things that need to be done leading up to and after the operation.
  • Trust your surgeon and your other medical specialists, who can help you work out what's valid and helpful information and what's not.
  • When you find yourself worrying, ask, "How is this thinking helping me?" At all times during this ordeal you want your thinking to remain rational and helpful to your wellbeing and your family's. When you challenge your irrational thinking, you'll experience a positive shift in your levels of distress.
  • Distract yourself. Try doing a breathing exercise, meditate, do yoga or go for a walk.
  • Write down your worries in a notebook - this allows you to let go of the thought. Allocate 10 to 20 minutes a day of time to write down everything you are concerned about. This will let you keep your thoughts clear at other times.
How to Solve your worry problem
Ask yourself, "What am I worrying about?" Then ask, "Is there anything I can do about it?"If the answer is no, try to stop worrying and distract yourself.
If it's yes, work out what you could do, or how to find out what to do. Make a list. Ask yourself, "Is there anything I can do about it right now?"
If the answer's yes, do it. Then stop worrying and distract yourself.
If the answer's no, plan what you could do and when. Then stop worrying and distract yourself!
Health facts
  • A compound found in sharks' livers could be used to treat diseases such as dengue fever and hepatitis. The antibiotic squalamine is known to be safe for use in humans as an antiviral agent and now US scientists believe it could also be used to fight certain infections by making tissues and organs resistant to them.
  • A good night's sleep may help prevent obese teens from developing type-two diabetes. Researchers say teenagers need seven-and- a-half to eight-and-a-half hours sleep a night to keep their glucose levels stable.

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